Founder Frank Hornby (15th of May 1863) had no engineering education, though he invented and produced one of the worlds most famous toy. In fact, Hornby was in the wholesale provision business in Liverpool. His father, John Hornby, was a provision salesman.

In 1887, Frank married the daughter of a customs officer when he was 24 years old. After his father died the same year, Frank became a bookkeeper with David H. Elliot who imported meat in Liverpool.

Both Frank's sons, Roland Godefroy Hornby (1889) and Douglas Egerton Hornby (1890) were to become Directors of "Meccano Ltd" in due course.

First Meccano models

The first toys Frank made from metal strips for his sons were complete models of trucks, bridges, and cranes without interchangeable parts. Frank thought about thus and decided to make separate parts that could be bolted together with screws to make more different models. This eventually led to a breakthrough and the concept that made him a rich man.

meccano constructionFrank started to use strips which were half an inch wide and made holes in them, spaced at half inch intervals. These strips were cut by hand from copper sheet. In the beginning he manufactured his own screws but eventually found a source of supply. Today, these same measurements are still in use.

Fionally, by the end of the year 1900 Frank Hornby had created a set of toy parts and was now thinking of marketing them. He patented his invention but to enable him to do this he had to borrow some money (five pounds) from David Hugh Elliot, his employer at the time. The patent was for "Improvements in Toy or Educational Devices for Children and Young People" and this was lodged with the patents office on 9th January 1901.

Now, Frank Hornby had to look for companies to produce his patented product. His problems were just about to start as he still had a wife and children to support on little wage and a full time job. He had to find time to show his invention to shops and wholesalers, but got more disappointments than orders.

The sets he made appeared very crude and poorly finished. But at this time his boss started to get interested in what Hornby was doing and offered him some empty work space next to the office where he worked.

So at this point, Hornby and his employer Elliot became business partners.

Hornby registered his famous trade mark "MECCANO" on the 14th September 1907.


Updated: 27 July 2019

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Comments (3)
Steve - November 18, 2019
I have some very old Meccano sets (i.e., 2, 2a, 3a, 4a) that are early 1900's, definitely pre-1920. The edges of some of the boxes are rough, but all seem complete, including instructions. There is nothing like them in the active or sold section of e-Bay. Can anyone tell me their value? - Thanks
Though I've seen some sets in the active and sold sections (for example Meccano 4a, yours must be different or older. Check out Google Images with for example Meccano 1900s to see if you can find one of yours.
Jeff - October 2, 2013
does every piece (except nuts and bolts)of meccano have the brand name stamped onto it?
Almost all Meccano parts have the word Meccano stamped in them. Of course, there are some exceptions. Parts which are nickel-plated before/during WWI weren't always stamped, but from then on almost all parts that were painted in green, red, or other color has been stamped. Do you have red or green or zinc parts that doesn't say Meccano on them? It's likely and almost certainly not Meccano. (Find more info on identifying Meccano here).
Rick - January 2, 2012
Where can I purchase the erector Gauge 1 locomotive, #830507